Simon's archetypical Le Montréal

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Bassi Montréal bicycle photographed against white background from the driveside, with saddlebag luggage. It looks beautiful.

Hello beloved bicycle people, it's Simon. If you've emailed C&L we've certainly been in touch, and some will remember me from my years as the main front-of-house person at 978 Rachel. We probably also had coffee together if you've come to our group rides. These days I do a lot of things around the ol' bike company, but the relevant one to this blog post is that I spec out our Bassi builds, buy the relevant parts, and quote people on their cool custom projects. I'd like to tell you a few things about my main ride around town, since I use it all the time as an inspiration and it's got some really well-loved parts and it's helpful to see how certain things (like people) age gracefully.

I've had this 52cm V2 Le Montréal since the moment it came off the boat in 2016. As you can see from the photo above, it's a little bit small for me, but that made sense with how I originally built it, and even now I kind of like that about it. What you have before you today is the third major build and the one I'll keep as-is for many more years. That's because I believe I've found the perfect, platonic Montréal: since I've built it this way, it has cast its shadow on every single bicycle I've had a hand in, and that's quite a lot of bicycles. I also sometimes catch it out of the corner of my eye and say "well, if that isn't just the exact way a bicycle should look".

This is now my only road bike! It's pretty quick and manœuvrable (not like my old Italian steel of course) but has room for some tire and some cargo, so it's way more useful every day around town. The smaller Montréals of the V1 and V2 generations, including mine, had some pretty vicious toe overlap, but that's a normal thing on oh so many road bikes with small frames but big 700C wheels. You get used to it after a while. These days we make this size with 650B wheels and it's a lot better, 2016 was before we'd gone all the way on proportional wheel sizes on our frames. I can only shake my head at our timidity.

Let's go through the build, why don't we? Along the way I'll point out the beausage on certain parts, so you can know what to expect from your own beautiful bicycle as it ages and bears the marks of your adventures and everyday life together. There will be stories and opinions.

  • Shimano SLR æro levers: I don't know what kind, or from when. They came out of the old-old C&L garage in 2013. They squeaked, once, then I oiled the pivot and that was that. Shimano really used to know how to make a pretty part when they wanted to, and they just work.
  • Dia-Compe DC980 Cantilevers: we sell these now in 2024, and when I look through the 1980s Dia-Compe catalogues, there they are, completely unchanged. They're super-small, minimalist, light, and exactly strong enough for what this bike does. They're perfect and elegant - why would you change them after perfecting them forty years ago? That's right, you wouldn't. Dia-Compe sticks to their guns.
  • Hangers: the front is the ultra-sturdy steel model from Dia-Compe. Ask me in person sometime why I modified it, it's a bit too silly to go into here. The rear is seatpost-bolt-mounted from Nitto, because when Nitto make something it's the most sensible yet most elegant way to make a part.

  • René Herse Crankset: Ah. Yes. Well. It's a really nice crank. It just doesn't do anything another crank wouldn't for half the price. Don't get one unless you really, really enjoy *~*æsthetics*~* of vintage French bikes and don't mind paying for it. I'll say that it really is enjoyable to pedal and top-notch workmanship. Just look at it though. Whew.
  • Wellgo pedals: the nine-to-five slob to the crank's socialite beauty queen. I don't know which model this is, I used to get whatever flat/clippy Wellgos Marinoni was clearing out at the time when I needed another set. They've been on massive tours with me and don't mind getting smashed on rocks and sidewalks. Wellgos work really well! Never turn your nose up at a Wellgo.
  • Campagnolo front derailer: another part from the old C&L parts garage. I had a modern double for a while but you know how the cages are shaped and squished around? That makes the chain shift more smoothly from one chainring to the next, but also rubs a bit if your alignment isn't perfect. So I grabbed this completely flat and straight '80s derailer from my bin, and guess what? It shifts perfectly every time. It just goes "KER-KLUNK" while doing it, nobody ever accused vintage Campy of shifting smoothly.
  • Shimano parts-bin rear derailer: I forget whose parts bin it's from actually. It's about as old as I am, was always generic non-series (like yours truly), hates going into a 32-tooth cog, but like the brake levers is from when Shimano could really make a good-looking bike part. I'm calling it now: this part will outlive me.
  • Rivendell Silver Shifters (aka Dia-Compe W-Shift): I think I've written more about this shifter than any other bike part or concept. They make the whole package work together and are a pure pleasure to move and feel. Plus, when mounted to the downtube, they're the lightest shifter you'll ever encounter, and all you need is about eight inches of housing. I grew up with downtube shifters on Dad's old Motobécane and never minded them, but even for someone new to them, it becomes second nature quickly enough.
  • 8-speed cassette: I don't know, Shimano or something, who cares.

  • The hubs are the old (sadly departed) Formula-made Bassi Road hubs that I've had on a few bikes. Originally this bike had Hplusson Archetype rims and I rode enough that they were due for a replacement, which is a life well-lived for a pair of rims. Now I'm riding my fave cheap-ish road rim, the Alex R450. No nonsense, just good solid dull-silver aluminium and stickers that are easy to remove. That dynamo hub on the front is a Shimano Alfine. It was my first dynamo and, I'll say it again, Shimano made it, so it's still going.
  • Rivendell Jack Brown tires: from back in the day when Riv was working with Panaracer on a tire program. Tire selection was nowhere near as good then as it is now, it's another domain where the bike industry owes them recognition for sticking their neck out and improving things for everyone. They're smooth-but-grippy, have good volume at 700x33mm (plenty for any road-plus bike) and might be my longest-lasting tires ever.
  • Innertubes: yes

  • Nitto Technomic NTC-DX stem: It's the most perfect stem anyone has ever made. I don't think I need to explain more (but send me an email if you'd like me to and you want a few pages of ranting and raving). Actually, just take 25 minutes out of your week and enjoy my favourite video on Youtube: Blue Lug visiting the Nitto factory
  • Nitto Noodle M.177 42cm handlebar: I like other more traditional rando bars, but the Noodle lives in my heart. It's comfortable and beautiful, another successful Rivendell collab. I'm not a bodybuilder so on a road bike the 42cm width is very comfortable.
  • Newbaum's cotton bar tape, shellacked: This is what you get if you use light gray cotton bar tape and garnet-grade shellac. The cotton tape gives just enough texture (no cushion but I ride in gloves) and the shellac protects it from dirt, abrasion, moisture, and me. Ask a woodworker friend about shellac, we usually all have some. I was looking forward to photographing this for you all, because this tape job is about four years old and it's good to see what you can expect if you do this to your bike.
    When the shellac layers got too banged up, I'd clean them a little, then simply reapply new coats over the old ones. Shellac is in an alcohol solution and the new layers dissolve the old ones a bit, so you don't need to do anything special to integrate them. The later layers are almost colourless blonde shellac, and the different colours you can see are a reflection of how it's been worn away based on where I hold the bars, or where I lean the bike.
    The spot where the tape goes around the brake levers is bare because I simply do not care about that when it comes to my personal bikes. I'll wrap yours up good and pretty, don't worry.
  • Crane Suzu Striker bell: The raw brass model. The sound is glorious, loud, and sustained. Everyone loves hearing it. Again, this is what you can expect from yours after many years of love. I've bent back into place all the parts of it, and even hammered the bell back into shape with a ball-peen after it got a little smashed. "Biiiiiiiinnnnnggggg.............."

  • Honjo Fluted H29 (I think): another fabulous example of beausage! This is the second bike I've had these on. They fit great, the rolled edge means the water stays inside the fenderline, they're light and don't rattle ever, and I think they're so gorgeous. Their beauty only gets better when they have the honest scrapes, bumps, dings and scratches of a life well-lived. They're also soft enough that you can bend or hammer them back into whatever shape you think they should be. Honjos need some very careful work to install perfectly and that takes a few hours and can lead to frustration, so here's my trick for speeding things up: don't install them prefectly, just install them pretty well.
  • Dia-Compe leather fender flaps: they're so wee and cute!
  • Velo Orange fender-mount reflector: don't pretend you didn't see me buddy, I've got a catadioptre.

  • Velo Orange Flat-Pack Rack: it goes from décaleur to tombstone and you can go 2-stay or 4-stay. Mounting your front rack to the mid-fork eyelets if you have those is the way to go, very sturdy. Plus, if I don't want the rack on my bike that day, I undo three bolts and it comes right off, leaving the fork-crown doohickey right where it is on the bike. These days I put a randonneur bag on this rack. Check out how the angles match the ones of the bike!
  • Carradice Classic Saddle Bag Rack: when the company that made this for decades went out of business, Carradice bought this fine rack and kept having it made. It hangs off the saddle loops and rests on the rails, which is super clever, and it just lifts right off so you can pop into the shop with your bag. Not for massive loads, but wonderful for a small saddlebag around town.
  • Carradice Barley saddlebag: I ordered this little bag direct from Lancs, UK back when the exchange rate started being reasonable for the first time in my life. It was my first Carradice and I've been a big booster of theirs ever since. This small cotton duck model is just right for day trips and using around town. The dowel (the straps for attaching it to your saddle loops go around an internal wooden dowel) broke a couple years ago so I went out and bought some dowel from the neighbourhood hardware place. Easy enough as far as repairs go.
  • B+M IQ-XS: dynamo hubs and lights all pretty much go together these days. The current light is Busch und Müller's small but bright shaped-beam IQ-XS. It's silver and has a switch. Really it was the lazy choice, I knew it and liked it already. If you ask me to spec you a dynamo setup I'll probably suggest this light.
  • Tange Levin headset: old-school good looks, precision Japanese manufacturing. Love it.
  • IRD Tenacity QB-40 bottom bracket: adjustable cup-and-cone bottom bracket with excellent metals and precision Japanese manufacturing, again. Also love it. I want to spin it forever. Once you know how to adjust one of these it's super easy and quick. Unbelievably cool that this exists in TYOOL 2024.
  • Brooks Swift saddle: it's the prettiest of Brooks' premium saddles (hand-skived edges? yes please), but if I'm honest I'd ride a B17 on a longer trip, it's just more comfortable.
  • Soma Bolo seat collar: left over from when I had a Soma.
  • Thomson Elite straight seatpost: honestly, I'm not that attached to it. I'll trade you for a Nitto if you've got one in 27.2 you won't use any more.
  • King Cage bottle cages: simply put, I switched all my bikes over to this model a couple of years ago. The shape is perfect, super tough, great hold and release, and stainless steel.

In conclusion: if you like the look of this bike and want something that's tough and rides well, my advice is: Nitto, Honjo, pre-1994 Shimano, and Dia-Compe of any era. You won't go far wrong with Japanese parts, much like with Japanese cameras.

Leave a comment under this post or send me an email if you want to talk about this bike! I bring it up all the time anyway.

13 Jun 2024
Simon St-Pierre
Hi Pam, yeah the light is a current-design B+M IQ-XS, it's got a switch and a standlight. Thanks for your kind words about my bike!
12 Jun 2024
Pamela Murray
Love the history and changes along the way. And of course, the beausage. I would’ve never guessed what color bar tape and shellac. Great combination. Does the light have a stand light? I have an older one that doesn’t. Is it the same brightness?
05 Mar 2024
Nice write up Simon!
I aspire to achieve this level of platonic idealism in a bike build some day.
I really enjoyed reading all the finer points and learning the little details over coffee this morning.
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